Religion and Meaning – A closer look

Wittgenstein ‘’the sense of the world must lie outside of the world’’

Religion has no doubt played a major role in man’s quest for meaningful living in our society today. Different religions around the world have value systems, Do’s and Don’ts, taboos and laws that shape all aspects of our lives. The great Apologist Ravi Zacharias once said ‘’the worship service on Sunday is a point where all your life converges and the fountain from which all of your life emerges’’.

Meaning as it relates to religion refers to all actions geared in the direction of the sacred. Religion seeks to align our internal desires, aspirations and goals to the dictates of a supreme being; it’s a channel to allow the interference of the divine in our day-to-day activities. In Religion we express a longing and craving that goes beyond self-indulgence, it brings us to oneness with our creator. Our search for oneness with our creator is one that transcends the theories and explanations of 21st century researchers; it’s beyond metaphysical analysis, philosophical research and psychological reasoning.

The role of meaning as it relates to religion has seen our society divide into the secular and the moral/spiritual. We judge our activities, thoughts and decisions on whether it’s from a secular perspective or something in accordance to the Supreme Being’s law. When an unexplainable event occurs like an earthquake, or the sudden death of a friend, we resolve to call it ‘’fate’’. Therefore religion simply gives meaning and purpose even when we experience challenges and problems, the believe that there still exist a better tomorrow.

Religion is always the culprit when someone or a group of people obsessed with their beliefs decide to superimpose it on those of others. Conflicts and wars are most often than not the end result, we see examples in the September 9/11 attack of the World trade centre, the boko Haram insurgence in Nigeria or the Al-shabaab folks of Somalia which are validations of some form of obsession. Although science has endeavoured over many centuries and ages to try and give factual explanation of our experience in this natural world, religion still gives us the closest clue to answers to what seems beyond our immediate world, The very notion of ‘’Faith’’ which is believing before seeing defies all logical reasoning but many a people have found true meaning in their lives just by the acknowledgment its power. What we know to be true is that people who have taken the bold step of absorbing truthfully the laws, rules and guidelines of the supernatural have meaningful lives to show as trophies, the whole concept of salvation is to bring our lives in total submission and control to our creator, for standing on the other side of the divide is a fate of misery.

The most interesting thing about meaning and religion is that it gives an insight into the most dominant truth of human existence which is the fact that ‘’the celestial controls the terrestrial, the invisible controls the visible, the spiritual controls the physical and the external controls the internal’’. Therefore we can conclude here that meaning in life is not created but discovered and that discovery lies outside our immediate frame of reference, for it lies outside the natural world. This best explains why there exist many churches, mosques, temples and shrines scattered all around the world with all seeking one purpose ,connecting to something that exist outside of their natural frontiers.

On Sundays, we bring our prayer requests to God, we dedicate the birth of a child, the joy of a new marriage, we engage in prayer activities from the short meetings to long adventures on the mountains. We endeavour to pay our tithes, we give to the less privileged in the society, and we join service units. All these activities help enhance our search for meaning for we hold so dearly the notion that meaning is never outside the creator. Whether we like it or not religion is one of the most important ways we try and find meaning in life for we are meaning seeking creatures. There are four major ways and reasons we seek this meaning.

Certainty/Assurance: In Religion we seek to have a relationship with our creator which gives us some level of assurance or certainty that we have the guidance of a divine being

Awareness/Uniqueness: We find meaning in the fact that we are different from all other species on the surface of the earth, that inner conviction makes us aware that our lives should have a reason. ‘’Meaning making is an activity that is distinctly human, a function of how the human brain is organised’’ Rue 2000

Fulfilment and Joy: In Spiritual security we experience a lift in our lives, there’s a joy within that transcends our emotional make up, we feel like we are in our element.

Purpose: In religion we get a sense of purpose that serves as a guideline to living a meaningful life. The concept of purpose is one that has gained acceptance around the world because it best explains our pathway to a life of meaning. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr ‘’A man without purpose is not fit to live’’.

Excerpt from my upcoming book (Meaning and the integrated life)

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One thought on “Religion and Meaning – A closer look

  1. Good one there! Sounded pretty apologetic, but with well organized thoughts. If indeed we be the work of His hands, only He that made us can best give the reason for our exixtence; when we get to know that, then we have a meaning!

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